Microsoft PartnerSome people like cubicles because they offer a semblance of privacy. Others find them confining and isolating. In Microsoft’s Asia-Pacific offices, they’re things of the past.

Not only are employees in Microsoft’s Asia-Pacific offices devoid of confining cubicles but also assigned desks. Every day, each employee chooses a desk. For storing personal items, Microsoft provided employees with personal lockers.  The philosophy behind this “musical desks” concept, which is popular among startups, is that it facilitates collaboration. Teams can more easily work together when the team members have the freedom to sit close to each other without displacing anyone else or disrupting the usual office setup.

Microsoft has a Windows Phone app that allows employees to find each other by showing who’s checked in to what desk and which rooms are booked. A map of the office helps with navigation.

According to a post on Tech Goondu, Microsoft conducted a survey at its Singapore location that indicated that the change was indeed a good idea. “A survey of 346 employees based in Singapore has justified the revamp. Fifty-four per cent reported an increase in productivity, 49 per cent confirmed they collaborate more with their colleagues, and 77 per cent reported an improvement in their working environment over the previous one.”

There are pluses and minuses to both cubicles and open offices. Clearly, in Microsoft’s Asia-Pacific offices, the open office plan works well. But sometimes, cubicles are necessary to prevent one person from looking at what another is doing. Open offices make employees feel less isolated more like team members. Small-business owners who think copying Microsoft’s open office idea would be wise to weigh the pros and cons of doing so before going through the trouble and expense of renovating.